An emotional Brazil began paying its final respects Monday to football legend Pele with a wake at the stadium where he first took the world’s breath away with his dazzling skill. Throughout the day, thousands of fans and football dignitaries slowly filed through the Vila Belmiro, home to Pele’s longtime club, Santos. More continued to join the queue as night fell, waiting their turn to walk past the body of “O Rei” (The King), lying at the center of the field. Pele’s coffin was draped in the flags of Santos and Brazil and surrounded by white flowers, including bouquets from the likes of Real Madrid or current Brazil star Neymar, whose father was in attendance.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva office announced earlier that he would attend the wake on Tuesday morning, less than 48 hours after taking office, to “pay his respects and tribute,” before a funeral procession and interment later in the day.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who attended the wake with the heads of the South American and Brazilian football confederations, said the sport’s governing body would ask all member countries to name a stadium in Pele’s honor.
Pele, a three-time World Cup winner widely considered the greatest footballer of all time, died Thursday at age 82 after a battle with cancer.